After dropping HRH off with her dad, I’m taking an hour to myself to throw around the heavy iron at the Grimsby YMCA. I’ve grown pretty accustomed to all the usual week night gym weirdos at the Port Colborne YMCA so I figured this change of scenery might make for a pleasant and interesting He-man night. My soundtrack this evening is the ‘The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas‘ by Courtney Barnett.
Barnett’s last album ‘Sometimes I Sit and Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit‘ was pretty much the best thing I listened to all last year (thank you, Patterson Hood!). This, however, is Barnett’s first album from 2013. Actually, it’s two EPs tied together to create a full body of work, and it’s a serious testament to her talented songwriting that the track list flows almost seamlessly from her breakthrough 2013 EP ‘How to Carve a Carrot Into a Rose‘ into her 2012 release, ‘I’ve Got a Friend Called Emily Ferris‘. In other words, her ‘Sometimes I Sit and Think…‘ was definitely no fluke.
What you really need to know about Barnett if you’re oblivious to this genius, is that she puts out songs that carry the confessional style of Paul Westerberg (the Replacements), the humor of David Lowery (Cracker, Camper Van Beethoven) and energy of the frickin Pixies.
Barnett’s greatest asset is her down-to-earth lyrical simplicity, which transforms what would otherwise be a mundane day or story into a tale of intrigue and significance. Obvious standout track ‘Avant Gardener‘ is typical of Barnett’s dry wit as she explains her unsuccessful attempt at gardening, which results in a panic attack and the realization that she struggles with some of life’s simplest tasks as she muses, “I’m not that good at breathing in.” Her poetic words are set to a soundtrack of psychedelic-leaning guitar wails and chugging slacker-rock chords, which provide a freewheeling accompaniment to her narration. ‘Are You Looking After Yourself‘ is the ultimate slacker song and anyone who’s ever had a nagging parent in their life with immediately identify with this track.
There is of course more to Barnett than her storytelling, and the churning melodies of ‘History Eraser‘ and the excitable ‘David‘ both indulge in a few organ blasts, piano twinkles, and rambling riffs that flare into the odd guitar solo. The difference between the two EPs is slightly obvious when the studio polish of 2013’s ‘Carve a Carrot Into a Rose‘ – which makes up the first half of the album – breaks into the lo-fi sounding ‘I’ve Got a Friend Called Emily Ferris‘. The slight change of pace is heard in the unfurling tracks ‘Are You Looking After Yourself‘ and ‘Porcelain‘, which revel in their simplicity.
Summarizing this album to the uninitiated is pretty difficult beyond ‘you need to hear this’. What’s certain is that Barnett’s clever lyrics and melodies pleasantly stick in your head after the very first listen with the guitars, keys, bass, percussion all woven seamlessly together to rock & roll perfection. I absolutely love it and need to find this album for my vinyl collection to boot.
So after the slowest evening ever – poor weather, shitty driving et al. – while the change of scenery was nice, it has t be said that the Grimsby YMCA is the most boring place on earth as far as gyms go. It might just be the most vanilla gym on the planet. But, hey, the workout was still great.